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Salt in Baking

I notice that sweets recipes originating the UK many times do not include salt. In the US salt is always in the ingredients.

What does everyone out there think about, for example, a cake recipe with/without salt?

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  1. I think salt may sometimes be omitted if the butter in the recipe is salted butter. I tend to use unsalted butter, and many of the recipes I use call specifically for unsalted butter, so I add salt separately (this allows for better control of how much salt you are adding to whatever you're making).

    Personally I would not trust a recipe that called for zero salt... salt brings out a lot of nuances in flavor (particularly in desserts) and is a key key key ingredient in baking, IMHO.

    1. As a baker who moved from the US to the UK, I can tell the difference. It's as if baked goods here are just 'flat'. I always make a new recipe the first time as it's written, but the majority of the time, my second go-round notes say 'needs a little salt'. Not much, maybe 1/4 tsp for every 1-2cups of flour, depending on if I am using butter as well. (only because the default household butter is salted, and I generally don't have unsalted at hand).

      1. i use very little salt, almost never adding it to recipes of my own creation. But I do find it's absolutely necessary in bread baking. For cakes, cookies, and the like, I use unsalted butter and a quarter, or less, of the amount called for in the recipe.

        1. Salt may have a function in baking besides taste, it can act as an agent to slow down the rising process in baking.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Ruthie789

            Salt slows Yeast growth but I do not think that it has any effect on Chemical Leaveners

            1. re: Ruthie789

              You should not knead un-salted dough, or it can suffer ill effects.
              You can withhold the salt if you gently mix the dough and allow it to rest during an autolyse period. But before kneading the dough, the salt should be added or the dough can become over-oxidized and color and flavor of the bread will suffer.
              .
              .
              From Page 20 "Bread Baking, An Artisan's Perspective" by Daniel T. DiMuzio
              .
              "When salt is added to a dough, it tightens the gluten structure and adds strength.
              .
              "...Salt is a natural antioxidant, and if we subtract salt from a bread dough being mixed at high speed, the rate of oxidation in the dough is dramatically increased. Most of the carotenoid pigments may be destroyed before the salt is added, thereby significantly reducing the flavor and aroma components
              associated with them..."
              .
              Page 52 Bread Baking, "An Artisan's Perspective" by Daniel T. DiMuzio
              .
              "...Some bread bakers prefer to hold back any salt addition until mixing is nearly finished in an effort to shorten the mix time during production. If bakers do hold back adding the salt, the dough will absorb much more oxygen than normal, and over-oxidation may occur before the salt is added. Flavor and color can be seriously compromised this way, so, in the interest of maintaining good quality, it is optimal for a baker to add the salt toward the beginning of the mixing cycle.
              .
              An exception to this principle occurs when you incorporate an autolyse into your mixing procedure. During an autolyse, salt is held back until the rest period is over in order to encourage an increase in enzyme activity. Because no high-speed mixing occurs before or during the autolyse, the dough's color and flavor can still be preserved in the temporary absence of salt. Before the remaining mix at high speed commences, the salt in the formula should be added to maximize its anti-oxidizing effects..."
              .

            2. If a recipe I'm using to bake something doesn't call for salt, I add it. IMO, ALL sweets and baked goods need salt. No exceptions. Without it they just taste either bland, too sweet or weirdly unbalanced.